Caroline Case and Hannibal Jones, now living in a lush penthouse in Chicago, return in Gertcher’s second installment of a series, once again navigating the crossfire of the warring Al Capone and a North Side gang.
It’s October 1928, and Caroline—formerly the madam of a houseboat brothel in the Wabash Valley and currently a private detective together with her partner Hannibal—receives an early morning phone call from neighbor and new friend Ruth Meltzer. The police are at Ruth’s apartment, having just informed her of the death of her 28-year-old son, Sydney. His lifeless body was discovered in his suite at the luxe Steven’s Hotel. Caroline and Hannibal have their next case. Sydney, a handsome, rich playboy, frequented one of Chicago’s vast assortment of speak-easies, known as “blind pigs.” As Caroline explains, “rival Chicago gangs fight bloody battles over control of the illegal booze trade. Murders are frequent, and I investigate.” Two different poisons are found in Sydney’s system, and it appears more than one person wanted him dead. Meanwhile, the duo is handed another case. Someone is trying to kill Giuseppe Costanzo’s youngest son, Michael. Giuseppe owns a string of bakeries in Chicago; not incidentally, he also launders money for Capone. There is plenty of fuel for a high-action drama, and Gertcher doesn’t disappoint. Like the series opener, the novel is enjoyably lightened by humor and a strong protagonist. And vivid portrayals of locale, décor, and clothing land readers squarely in the Roaring ’20s. One caveat: Caroline’s repetitious description of her favorite evening lounge attire becomes wearying. Nonetheless, Caroline is smart, confident, and spirited, and in between the shootings, knifings, and a kidnapping is some solid sleuthing. Gertcher supplies a sizable cast of likable secondary players; kudos go to Ruth, a clever, wealthy widow with a wickedly useful cane.
A fun murder-and-mayhem detective story enhanced by historical details and a sturdy female lead.
Pub Date: yesterday
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Wind Grass Hill Books
Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020